How to Avoid Holiday Season Gift Card Scams

It’s the time of year where many scams are prevalent, however lately – gift card scams seem to be popping up and affecting consumers more and more this holiday season. Continue reading to find out how to protect yourself and your finances from this type of fraudulent transaction.

If you ever receive a call, email, or text from someone asking to be paid via a gift card or to buy something by putting money on a gift card and then giving them the numbers on the back of the card – they are attempting to scam you. Before you read any further, know that a legitimate business or government agency will never ask to collect payment via gift card.

Why do fraudsters attempt to collect payment in the form of gift cards? Because they are easy to get, and there are virtually no buyer protections. In other words, it’s basically like using cash. And when the money on the gift card is gone, it’s gone.

How does a gift card scam work?

  • You’ll get a call, email, or text letting you know you’ll need to pay as soon as possible, and that the only way to do so and help is to buy a gift card.
  • The requestor will almost always tell you exactly which gift card to purchase – typically eBay, Google Play, Target, iTunes, and so forth. You might even be asked to purchase the gift card at a specific store, such as Target, Walmart, CVS, or Walgreens. The scammer may ask you to purchase various gift cards at different stores too (this is so the cashier won’t be suspicious).
  • Once purchased, you’ll be asked for the gift card number and PIN. These two items will give the scammer access to all the funds that were loaded onto the card, and once they have that – the money is theirs and they can use it immediately with no way for you to get it back.

If you are thinking the steps listed above are pretty obvious and how could someone actually fall for this type of scam – keep reading.

How scammers convince consumers to purchase gift cards and get away with it:

  • The caller states they are from the government, such as the IRS or Social Security Administration. They’ll tell you that you owe taxes or need to pay a fine, and the only way to do so is with a gift card.
  • The caller says they are with Apple or Microsoft tech support, and that there is something wrong with your device. They’ll also tell you that in order to fix it, you’ll need to go out and purchase a specific related gift card.
  • Online dating sites are another hangout for gift card scammers. If you meet and chat with someone via a dating site or app, and then after they build a connection with you – they tell you they need help and the only way to do so is with a gift card.
  • The scammer spoofs the phone number of a family member or friend close to you, and tells you they’re in trouble and that the only way to help them is to go out and purchase a gift card. If this happens to you, hang up and actually call your relative or friend on your own and ask if they truly need help.
  • You are contacted that you won a prize, however in order to redeem it – you need to pay contest fees with a gift card. This will never happen with a legitimate contest, and – did you ever enter one to begin with?
  • You get a call from your “utility company” threatening to cut off your service unless you pay them with a gift card.
  • Someone contacts you and says you will receive a check in the mail – however it ends up being more than you were told you would be getting. The sender contacts you again and tells you to deposit the check into your bank account, and give them the difference on a gift card. There are two problems here – the gift card payment, and also the check being deposited is typically fake and you may be held liable for that amount by your bank as well.

Here are a few ways to ensure gift cards are used properly and legitimately:

  • Remember that gift cards are for gifts. You should never use a gift card to pay someone.
  • Purchase gift cards at stores you know and trust – don’t buy them online or through a gift card auction site, as they may be fake or stolen.
  • Look the gift card over before you purchase it. Ensure there are protective stickers that have not been tampered with, and make sure the PIN on the back isn’t visible.
  • Keep your receipt after your gift card purchase. This will prove that money was loaded onto the card if you ever need it, as well as the gift card’s ID number will be listed. If you ever lose the gift card, you’ll be able to file a report to close that particular card.

The moral of the story: This holiday season (and any time), be mindful of those who might be trying to scam you into purchasing gift cards. Always remember, legitimate organizations will never ask to be paid in this manner.

THINK First because There’s Harm In Not Knowing!

 

Article Source: ftc.gov

Easy Ways to Save Money During the Holiday Season

Have you started your holiday shopping yet (hopefully)? If you are needing some additional money or looking for ways to save this year, keep reading to find out a few easy ways to keep costs in check from now until the new year.

Only use cash: We’re living in an online world that makes spending money quick, too easy, and through electronic means. If you don’t usually carry cash, this is a friendly reminder that to pay for items – you physically need to shell out the money. This will feel more personal and be a better option if there is a budget you need to stay in line with (which hopefully you made a holiday shopping budget before starting to shop). Using cash is usually enough to make you think twice about what you are buying.

Write everything down: Every time you make a holiday purchase, write it down or save it in a note on your phone. By physically writing down or typing every dollar you use, you’ll quickly realize just how much money you are spending. This also works for non-holiday purchases this time of year. Also jot down other things you are buying (coffee, food, a pack of gum, etc.) for the month to help you realize where you can cut back and what might be unnecessary, impulse purchases. Hopefully this will be a wake-up call to help you cut back on any needless spending.

Layer up: Decreasing your electric or gas bill is another great way to save money this month. Sure, winter is coming in a couple weeks and it may be getting colder – but depending on where you live, your heat may not need to be fully on just yet (or it could at least be lower during the day when no one is home, or at night when you are wrapped up in warm blankets anyway). If the cold doesn’t bother you too much this December, grab a blanket, heavy sweatshirt, and socks – and turn the thermostat down. Dressing in layers can help keep you warmer too.

And there you have it, simple and easy ways to save some money this month!

 

Article Source: CUInsight.com

How to Stay on Your Holiday Season Budget

If you’re on a strict budget this holiday season, it can be hard to not spend more than you should. One way you can achieve this goal (and not rack up costly credit card debt), is by implementing a zero-based budget.

What is a zero-based budget? In simple terms, your income minus any expenditures equals zero. When you’re budgeting for the holidays, it’s helpful to know exactly where every dollar is being spent. Here’s how to make a zero-based holiday budget work for you.

Jot down your total allotted income: For example, say you have $1,000 to spend on holiday gifts and supplies. Before you spend any money, make sure that your total is going to be enough to cover everything that you’d like to purchase.

Write down your expenses: Write down (or create a note on your phone for) everything including gifts, decorations, food, clothing, and so on. Beside each line item, jot down how much you want to spend on each purchase.

Subtract: When you subtract your expenses from your allotted income, you will want it to equal zero. If your numbers don’t come out to zero, move some dollars around or adjust until they do. You may have to look over your list, but once you’ve got it balanced – it’s a very simple concept.

Don’t forget to also track your spending as you go, and match it to your original checklist.

Another idea for next year? Set-up a Holiday Savings Account. During the year, you’ll be able to automatically deduct money from each of your paychecks and have it sent to a special savings account. The idea behind this type of account is to set it up so that you don’t see this money during the year and then when you need it for holiday shopping – it’s there.

Are there any holiday traditions you can cut out? Think expensive card photo shoots, excessive holiday outdoor lights, or exchanging gifts with every member of your extended family. Try to come up with easier, less expensive alternatives for these traditions – or stop them altogether.

If you stick to your original plan and holiday budget, you’ll be right where you need to be – come the new year.

Happy Holidays!

 

Article Sources: CUInsight.com and Ramseysolutions.com

Tips for Creating and Sticking to Your Holiday Budget

It’s that time of year again! Here are some budget conscious shopping tips as we head into the holiday season.

Set a Spending Limit: Before you start to shop, decide on an amount that you are comfortable with and can afford to spend on gifts this year. Be realistic and firm, and stick to this spending limit throughout the holiday season. Don’t forget to also factor in your regular monthly bills that will need to be paid during this time.

Don’t Forget You Might Need to Buy Other Items Besides Gifts: Other factors to include in your holiday spending budget might be travel, gift wrap, decorations, food, and clothing. These items may be outside of the holiday gifts you are purchasing, but can still add up and blow your holiday budget if you forget about them.

Do Your Research: Before you head out to the store or make an online purchase, do your research. How much do the things on your list cost, and are there any promotions or online deals you can take advantage of to save money? If the items on your list are ones you have purchased in the past, see if you have previous receipts or online order emails to remind yourself how much the items cost or where you purchased them.

Make a List: At the beginning of the season, make a gift list with one or two ideas for each person – within your budget of course. Try to create this list as soon as possible, so that if any of the items on it are on sale – you can get them early and at a discount. Be sure to also stick to your list – once it’s made, it’s made. Try not to buy extras or overspend.

Scale Back: If you’re on a tight budget and your gift list includes many people outside of immediate family or kids, you might need to consider cutting your gift list. Instead, you can always try a homemade gift that’s much less expensive for adults outside of immediate family (baking cookies, crafting something personalized) to save your holiday spending budget.

Try Secret Santa: If you have a rather large family or a big friend group – you can always try the Secret Santa gift method. This way you won’t have to buy an individual gift for everyone – you can simply pick one name out of a Santa hat, the group will set the spend limit together as a whole so it’s the same for all, and then you only have to buy one gift.

Compare Prices: Once your list is made, start doing some comparison shopping to see where you can purchase the items that will save you the most money. Check out early Black Friday deals (which many retailers have been participating in for 2021), Black Friday sales, Cyber Monday savings, and online coupons. Be sure to also sign up for emails with the retailers you plan to shop with this year, as well as follow their social media pages to keep an eye out for timely promotions.

Track Your Spending: Once you start purchasing gifts, keep a tally of how much you are spending to make sure you are in line with your original budget. Keep this as up to date as possible so you know how much you’ve spent and what is still left to buy.

Happy Holidays!

Article Source: News 12 New Jersey

Last Minute Thanksgiving Savings Tips

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, are you prepared? You might be slightly panicking right now if you didn’t set aside money or create a budget for the upcoming holiday. With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, everything associated with the holiday can become very pricey at the last minute.

Don’t worry, you’re certainly not the only one who feels this way. Thanksgiving might almost be here, but there are still various ways to celebrate the holiday without breaking the bank – especially if you didn’t plan ahead. Keep reading for some last minute Thanksgiving money-saving ideas that may just be all the help you need.

Save on Thanksgiving Travel

Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to get together. As a result, travel is often required and might also be costly. Additionally, COVID-19 restrictions can add to the dilemma. Group gatherings may still be limited, and this could also reduce the number of usual participants. Not to mention, many cities still have travel restrictions in place.

To save money, you may choose to avoid traveling all together this year. Perhaps you’ll instead be able to host a small gathering with close friends or relatives who live nearby, and arrange for a video call with loved ones who live far away. Spending Thanksgiving virtually may not be ideal, but it still has its advantages – especially in this time of an ongoing pandemic. You’ll save money on airfare and gas costs, and also avoid the hassle of meeting the pandemic’s travel guidelines.

If you still want to travel, several airlines and websites do provide lower-cost flights. Keep searching the internet looking for last minute travel deals. Yes, as Thanksgiving approaches – everything may become more expensive, but there are certainly some last minute discounts available if you do your research.

Save Money on Thanksgiving Dinner

Whether you plan to make your Thanksgiving meal from scratch or buy ready-to-eat food, preparing this meal can be costly. One tip to save money is to keep your food menu small and simple, especially if you’re on a budget and won’t be hosting a huge gathering. People are likely to be on the move most of the day, visiting various friends and family. Some also tend to over-prepare, making too much food. A lot of food will likely go to waste if you take this route, so plan accordingly for the number of people in attendance – keeping in mind that most guests will only sample a little bit of everything and not eat large portions.

Save Money on Decorating

Preparing and decorating for Thanksgiving can be fun, however at full price – decorations can be expensive. Flex your creativity and make your own decorations if you can. This is an easy method to save some cash and show off your inner artist too. If you are not crafty at all, check out your local dollar store or the sale section of a nearby craft store.

You can also use what you already have in the house too. For example, reuse last year’s Thanksgiving decorations or search around the house for items that you can use for a centerpiece. You may also want to print a banner you can hang up inside, or purchase a small bouquet of fresh flowers from your local grocery store. You can save money while still having a festive Thanksgiving.

In Conclusion

Having a Happy Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a drain on your wallet. Whatever your decorations are and no matter what the menu is, as long as you spend the holiday with the people who matter most, it’s more than enough to make it a memorable Thanksgiving Day. And being thankful is what the day is truly all about.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Article Source:

https://moneypantry.com/thanksgiving-money-saving-tips/

This Year Start Your Holiday Shopping Early

In years past, Thanksgiving (and subsequently the holidays) have probably involved family bonding opportunities and hassle-free trips to the grocery store and mall. However, because of the pandemic and its effects on retailers and shipping delays, the holiday season might look a little different this year.

What Changed?

Because of supply chain issues, fluctuating prices on common goods, and increased consumer demand – shortages are coming into play for the holidays in 2021. Consumers can expect a “shopocalypse” as COVID-related shipping issues slow down the movement of goods from manufacturers to the shelves of retail stores.

International brands aren’t exempt from the effects of COVID, either. For example, the sales of H&M slowed down in September because of delivery delays. Nike, also lowered its sales forecast for Thanksgiving after closing 80% of its factories in Vietnam. Bed Bath and Beyond’s revenue also fell 26% due to shipping issues.

Aside from the disruptions in the supply chain – the holiday season is also shorter this year, which means that retailers have less time to sell. Because of this, most stores will be more incentivized to create deals as early as the first week of November to beat the competition. In short, you can still get Black Friday-worthy deals earlier in November – so if you can, don’t wait and risk running out of your favorite items this year.

With all of the changes happening in the supply chain, it’s vital for you to start shopping early to get ahead of the uncertainties of retail store closures and potential shipping delays.

3 Top Holiday Shopping Tips for 2021

Even though there have been a lot of changes in the retail industry, this doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy shopping for the holidays this year. Below are some of our best holiday shopping tips so you can still make the most out of the season!

Start Early

Unlike previous years, don’t wait for any major discounts from your favorite retailer before you start shopping. If you’re planning to get someone a new item that’s popular, buy it as soon as possible before the item goes out of stock.

Be Realistic

Some retailers are whittling down their products to ensure that they can keep certain items in stock. When buying products for the holidays, don’t fixate on a specific color or style. Be realistic and consider other styles of the same product.

Shop From Local and Domestic Stores

When shopping for gifts, buy from local and domestic stores. Aside from having the opportunity to check out the items in person – shopping from local stores (rather than buying items online), is also the best way to make sure that your loved ones receive their gifts on time.

Start Shopping Now

As you shop this year, don’t forget that 2021 has taken a toll on everyone — from small business owners to customer service associates. Help businesses recover from the pandemic by shopping early and only buying items that you need.